SBA Learning Center

Finding a Great Idea

A great business idea isn't just one that makes money. It's one that serves a genuine need while being a good fit for you personally and plays to your strengths and skills. Great businesses are fueled by owners that have a passion for what they do. Without passion it becomes a job. Make sure you pick something you love because, if everything goes as planned, you're going to be doing it for a long time.

Here are some important factors to keep in mind when coming up with your business idea:

1. Solve a problem

The easiest way to come up with a great business idea is to solve problems you have. Make a list and when you're done make another list of problems others may have. Most, if not all, businesses exist because they solve a problem that someone has. This can range from restaurants, which meets a need that everyone in the world has, to 1967 Ford Mustang oil filters, which meets a need that very few people have. Nevertheless, there is a need and it solves a specific problem.

Several of the products you have become used to using everyday were actually invented to solve a problem. Toothbrushes were designed to keep your teeth clean. Sunglasses were made to protect your eyes from harmful rays of the sun. Shoe laces were created to keep your shoes tight and snug. You get the picture.

Discover that your own frustrations can quickly turn into opportunities to solve. Get good at identifying solutions to common problems and you'll have an array of possible great business ideas.

2. Save people money

Another great way to come up with ideas is to think about saving people money. Rechargeable batteries are a perfect example since they're only slightly more expensive than disposable batteries but can be recharged many times. It may only take two or three recharges to start realizing savings. After that it's like having free batteries. Now that's big time savings!

People love online travel site Expedia because they can search for a flight, compare prices, and purchase instantly. This saves people money and time. Imagine how much time it would take if you had to contact all the airlines separately to compare their prices.

If you can figure out how to save people money or time, you'll have a great business idea that anyone will appreciate.

3. Make life easier

A wireless mouse elimates the possibility of a tangled, unattractive cord. A microwave quickly heats up your food to the desired temperature (more or less) in an instant. Convenience stores at a gas station allow for quick snacks and beverages while you fuel up your vehicle. If you find a way to make people's lives easier, they will pay you for it.

Begin a habit of looking at the things around you while asking yourself, how could this be easier? How could it be simplified, less stressful, and more pleasant to use? You'll notice that even the smallest tweaks could create something that is easier to use.

4. Improve an existing idea

The wheel is arguably man's greatest invention. Someone took that wheel to build a car. Then someone came out with rubber wheels for durability. After that someone filled it with air to save rubber and provide a more comfortable ride. Then someone improved the air-filled, rubber wheel with tread which provided better grip and traction on the road. Then after that another person added nitrogen, instead of air, to the rubber wheels so it wouldn't lose pressure under intense conditions. The same product had undergone several changes that made an improvement upon the former version.

Most good ideas are built as an improvement on someone else's existing idea. If you can prove you've built a better mouse trap people will come.

5. Turn a hobby into a business

Maybe you're already actively making or doing something out of your personal interest and talents so this may be a natural progression. Maybe you've been doing something on a regular basis and find yourself good at it but don't think of it as a hobby. If that's the case, you should consider how it could become a business.

Many people find the idea of starting a business intimidating, but it may help if you start with something you're familiar with or even something you're good at. This way, it might not feel like a business and you'll enjoy the process as you go. Be sure to think carefully about how you'll feel if things do work out. You may find things suddenly become less enjoyable as you've got to start making them because you have to, not because you want to. If that happens it's time to find a new hobby!

Take Action

If you've gotten this far, we hope the process of coming up with a great business idea has at least been somewhat demystified. Business startup isn't rocket science. No, it isn't easy to start your own business, but it's not as complicated or as scary as many people think. It's a step-by-step, common-sense procedure that we've outlined for you in our SBA Guide. So take it one step at a time.

Finding a great idea is only the beginning. You still have a lot of research and planning in front of you. Getting the SBA Guide is a smart first step but most importantly take action and Do Something! Don't sit back year after year and say "This is the year I'm going to start my business." Make this the year you make it happen!